Carol A. Donovan has been giving parties in Westminster for 10 years without ever wanting the music to stop or the balloons to come down. So it won't be easy for her to move on.
City-sponsored parties were continually on the calendar -- Easter egg hunts, teen dances, Concerts in the Park, the Muscular Dystrophy carnival, Fallfest.
When no party was scheduled, she thought of one -- the Flower and Jazz Festival, the Daddy-Daughter date, a giant Christmas card in 1985 for President Ronald Reagan that was signed by more than 9,000 Westminster-area residents.
And the 1986 Fallfest turtle race, which nearly ended in disaster when Mayor LeRoy L. Conaway's turtle went out for a training run and never returned.
Mrs. Donovan, 41, the city's recreation and activities supervisor, will leave her post at the end of June to move to a small town near Raleigh, N.C.
Her husband, Donald, owner of Donovan Construction Co., plans to open a second construction business and Mrs. Donovan will seek a job in recreation. Their son Shawn will be a freshman at North Carolina State University in Raleigh this fall. Daughter Stacy will be a senior at Washington and Lee University, and son Jeremy, a high school freshman.
North Carolina "seemed to be calling us," Mrs. Donovan said. She and her husband were drawn to the beauty of the area and to the booming construction business.
She jokes that being able to announce her resignation two months before she leaves "is like being present at your own eulogy. People keep coming up and saying nice things."
City officials praise her enthusiasm, dedication and initiative.
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said that, although he is happy personally to see Mrs. Donovan gain more time with her family, from a city government standpoint, "It's as if [Orioles shortstop] Cal Ripken walked into [manager] Johnny Oates' office and said, 'I'm hanging it up.' "
Mrs. Donovan's departure will leave a gap in activities sponsored by city government, the mayor said, and in other community activities where she has volunteered, such as the annual "previously owned prom gowns" sale sponsored by Westminster High School classes.
To illustrate Mrs. Donovan's initiative, Thomas B. Beyard, the city public works director, tells the story of how she accompanied him to Frederick to learn how city government had converted an old armory for recreational uses, as Westminster now plans to do with the Longwell Municipal Center.
One of the Frederick officials gave them a brochure that mentioned a flower show. "I thought that was a neat idea and I said that to Carol. The next thing I know, we're running a flower show," Mr. Beyard recalled.
Westminster's Flower and Jazz Festival is now in its fifth year.
Mrs. Donovan said craft vendors had approached her asking for a "Springfest" similar to Fallfest. That wasn't feasible, because Fallfest requires 10 months to organize, but she decided that a flower and music festival would be possible.
Six years ago, when the City Council took over the swimming pool in The Greens subdivision, some council members opposed it as a hole in the ground into which the city would pour money.
To make sure the pool broke even, Mrs. Donovan and the recreation staff pumped it out and scrubbed it for the season opening. She hired a cleaning crew after several years of profitable operation. But she still cleans the offices, bathrooms and concession stands at the pool before each summer's opening.
"I so appreciate the way she helped," said Mahmood Ebrahimzadeh, who coaches and runs clinics for the Caspian Soccer Club. Mr. Ebrahimzadeh moved to Westminster in 1991 with a background in international professional soccer and a plan to open a soccer goods store and run camps and clinics, but no local contacts. He detailed his proposal to Mrs. Donovan, who helped him set up the program and schedule playing fields.
City Council President Kenneth A. Yowan, who was part of the delegation that delivered the 128-square-foot Christmas card to President and Mrs. Reagan, said he will never forget the experience. "How many people get that opportunity, to go to the White House and talk to the president and first lady?" Mr. Yowan said.
In the official photo of the presentation, Mrs. Donovan is standing beside Mr. Yowan. He has teased her that in 100 years, when the question, "Who are those people?" comes up, it will probably be assumed that she was Mrs. Yowan.
Mrs. Donovan said she got the idea for the Christmas card while she was taking a shower. She was too naive to know how hard it is to get into the White House, so she just did it. The White House visit, with snow carpeting the Rose Garden, was her 15 minutes of fame, she said. Mrs. Donovan's job has involved many night and weekend hours and her husband works long hours in construction. But he said they have managed to make time for each other. During the annual Fallfest celebration, which Mrs. Donovan has chaired since 1987, "It's a running joke that she lives at Fallfest and comes and visits us," Mr. Donovan said.
Mrs. Donovan said Fallfest is probably her pet project because the annual carnival and craft show brings thousands of people downtown, "and people have such a good time."
She said she is most proud of the after-school recreation program, which opened the Longwell Municipal Center in 1992-1993 to middle school students to participate in organized sports in the gym, watch television, play electronic games or do homework. Mrs. Donovan said her Westminster job has been an interesting and educational 10 years. She's working on a degree in recreation, one course at a time because of the demands of her schedule. But she has learned park development and swimming pool management on the job, and been part of a program that grew from three annual activities in 1984 to 17 in 1993.
She has had the rare opportunity to be paid for something she would have done anyway. Mrs. Donovan was organizing children's activities in The Greens when former Recreation director Terry Borneman recruited her for the city job.
"From the Muscular Dystrophy carnival all the way to Fallfest," she said, "I get to throw parties for people all the time."